The Utah Democratic Party is correct in refusing a condescending offer from the Utah Republican Party to pay $9,000-plus in order to have public documents on the Legislature’s redistricting efforts released.
The real issue is the blatant anti-transparency stance of legislative leaders. It is ridiculous to charge $14,250 to release the records of the state redistricting process. That work was done on the taxpayers’ dime. Attempts to price the release of the records far beyond the fiscal means of most organizations or persons is arrogance personified.
Democrats had already paid $5,000 to get the documents. That was a price set by a legislative committee. However, when Democrats went to get the documents, the price was nearly doubled.
When Democrats protested the late price increase, they were handed one box of documents and denied two more. Later, Republicans, who no doubt have far more cash on hand than Utah’s minority party, made the insulting offer to pay for the two other boxes.
We agree with Joel Campbell, a BYU professor and media watchdog, who says that the public’s right to receive information on what pols do on the taxpayers’ dime should be inalienable. The refusal to allow access to these records from several groups — including public watchdog organizations and media — without paying a ridiculously overpriced fee — shows disdain for the public from Republican lawmakers. Setting an unreasonable fee to view public records is a way of denying access.
Many might presume that this noxious stance of Utah Republicans is due to their ignorance of what transparency in government means. However, that may be too simple of an explanation. Given the Legislature’s history, it’s likely that Republicans are taking this thuggish stance because they can.
Given a feckless state executive branch and the overwhelming GOP majority in the Legislature, this and similar disrespect for the taxpayers’ business will probably continue.